Years ago, before I became a personal trainer, I visited my best friend in Manhattan. He’s one of those uber connected, “in the know” guys always impeccably dressed and on trend. He couldn’t wait to take me to his newest fitness obsession: SoulCycle. I rolled my eyes with every detail. Candles? Weights on bikes? Motivational coaches? Celebrity sightings? No thanks. But I went. And ever since I’ve included it as part of my balanced fitness program. And here’s why.
- It’s a hella hard and effective workout that challenges both my aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. Meaning it helps keep me lean and improves my endurance.
- It helps keep my legs and core strong. When executed appropriately both my anterior and posterior leg muscles get a strong workout as do my core stability muscles. Because of my personal spinal issues, I skip the core flexion and rotational moves and I’ve never once been called out or shamed for that by the instructors.
- It works both my fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers. On my own I like to lift heavy. I back squat 235#, deadlift 250#, front squat 205#, hip thrust 435# and bench 180# (yeah, I know my numbers are weird). But I NEVER work my slow twitch fibers on my own. So when I grab those “baby weights” in SoulCycle after five minutes my arms are on fire (in a good way).
- It complements my cardio program. I am a runner. I love to sprint up hill and go on endurance runs. Over the years this has given me a tendency toward plantar fasciitis and flexion issues with my left ankle. After my weekly SoulCycle ride these issues are reduced and my ankle mobility is improved. It gives my body the balance it needs.
- It’s fun. Oh yeah, and it’s a really good time. It makes me feel connected to my body and to a room full of people I don’t even know. The music is on point and I’m literally glowing after. It is spiritual in that I feel connected to something (myself, the bike, the universe - it changes each day). It helps me melt away the BS that piles up in my brain throughout the week. We take ourselves too seriously. Just let yourself have a little fun and try it before you knock it.
I like to kick start my weekend by taking the 730a class in the Castro taught by the amazing and inspiring Megan S. Her style is perfectly suited to what I need. She is fun and serious about form, gives strong cues and meets me where I’m at. I always push myself but never more than what I need at the moment. It takes a lot to impress me being a personal trainer and coach myself. So I couldn’t resist doing a Q&A with this awesome lady and encourage all of you to join me one Saturday morning in her class. (Note: I’m a back row rider - so if you want to ride next to me I’m usually bike 46).
Q: How did you come to teach SoulCycle in the Castr at 730 in the morning? And what other days, times and locations do you typically teach?
I was a competitive, year round swimmer for almost 20 years of my life--so waking up early is just something that is ingrained in me now! I am one of those crazy people that when the alarm goes off, I am READY to go without any caffeine. The "rooster" classes just came naturally. Working out in the morning feels the best to me, and I love sharing that bond with my riders. However, I do sub for other instructors at all different times and am loving seeing different faces later in the day. Everyone's body fires differently and luckily, when you love what you do, you're excited at anytime to go to work :)
Q: What would you say to someone who has never taken your class but is thinking about it?
First, I LOVE having new riders! I have become close friends with some riders and they have shared their SoulCycle journey with me. These discussions have truly opened up my eyes to how overwhelming the first couple classes may be. Our staff is amazing with setting people up and making sure someone has everything they will need! Just show up 15 minutes in advance please, so I can chat with you and meet you!
I would describe my class as athletic, challenging, and form driven. My number one goal is for you to be honest with your resistance on the wheel and USE the strongest parts of your body to do so. If you want a full body workout, you have to be aware of your movements and where they are stemming from and why. My classes always have a variety of riders with different ages, physical fitness levels, etc--but the one thing that always bonds us together in that room is when everyone realizes they can handle much more resistance for different paces in class. This is when your true inner athlete shines.
Q: What do you see happen over time with your consistent, veteran riders? How do they change physically, mentally, spiritually?
This HANDS DOWN is the best part of teaching. The moment when riders know they have ridden on a heavier resistance than before, or stayed up longer out of the saddle than before on a sprint..when their face lights up and they realize they are a badass--thats everything to me. People share with me their weight loss stories and how they have changed clothing sizes or how much more muscle definition they have--which is so amazing. But, the most important feeling to walk away with and to 'change' is the sense of self. In the beginning, people point out how they are different and use excuses to drop their arms during weights or not fully commit to the entire class, etc. After riding for a while, you start to realize the power of the pack as a whole, the self criticism cuts down drastically and even the energy when entering the room is better! People stop dreading working out because class is fun and you are making the decision for YOURSELF to handle as much resistance as you can!
I like to say its a "healthy form of peer pressure" when you want to support the person next to you. Seeing people get out of their own heads, just allowing their bodies to move and surprising themselves with their strength they build within the walls of the room and then taking that outside into the community is the most fulfilling aspect of leading the pack.
Q: I love what you tell people who are having a hard time clipping in. How long did it take you to get comfortable on a bike?
I would say it took me a solid 2 months of riding 10+ times a week to feel like I could clip in and out pretty efficiently. However, if you take my class enough, you'll realize there are moments I am not so graceful and almost pull a Jennifer Lawrence on that podium! When I don't feel comfortable doing something, it shows 100% on my face (hence why I don't play poker). I try and combat this by being prepared. I spent a lot of time before classes really paying attention to my settings, playing with clipping in and out, and WHY we set the SoulCycle bikes up the way we do. More information = more peace of mind, for me.
Q: Ok, I have to ask. What's up with you and McDonald's?
If I could sum up my life mantra in one word it would be BALANCE. Overall, I am a very healthy person. I grew up having a chef for a father and a mother who believes in a plate with every food group-- so I do love to cook for myself.
Recently, I started doing yoga to compliment all of the classes at SoulCycle and it has been my best decision (thus far) of 2016. Eating healthy and working out does make me genuinely feel good. But I would be lying if I said there weren't days I struggled to want to be active. (Tip: getting to the workout is 90% of the battle--just get there!)
For my friends who thoroughly enjoy those kale juices and wheatgrass shots, more power to you--but when those Golden Arches call my name, I do indulge in some fries and love every second of it. As my favorite meme on the internet goes: Some days you go to the gym and drink a green smoothie, other days you refuse to put on pants and eat cupcakes: its called balance. Be human! Life is too short to be rigid and serious :)